September 29, 2013
The founding of this church is recorded in Acts 19.
Ephesians was written by Paul from his prison in Rome, about AD 62.
Ephesus was a large city in Asia minor. It was famous first for sin, witchcraft, idolatry (especially the worship of Diana), and persecution. While on his way to Jerusalem from Corinth, A.D. 54, the Spirit led Paul through Ephesus, where Paul remained for three years, preaching the gospel. We see in Revelation 2:1-7, that Ephesus became known for godly virtue after having received the gospel. They started out with great zeal, but declined into coolness, having left her first love.
At that time, Ephesus was the most splendid seat of idolatry in the whole pagan world, and was a major trade center. It was the residence of the Roman proconsul, and the seat of the courts of justice in Asia Minor. It was, therefore, populated by the learned and talented. (Barnes) Paul remained there long enough to establish a strong work that would unseat idolatry, and spread over the world.
Evidently, Paul aimed to reach the centers of influence and power, places such as Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, Philippi and even Rome. From these chief cities, the true gospel would spread throughout the world. It would be like today preaching in DC, New York, London, Paris, and other world centers of commerce. And the Spirit establishing great and powerful works for the Kingdom of God in those areas, and the Kingdom then spreading to the far reaches of the earth.
Paul remained longer at Ephesus than he did at any other one place preaching the Gospel. In Acts 19:10, we see that Paul spent three years preaching in Ephesus. "God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul" in order to confirm his message, 19:11. The movement of the Spirit was so strong that many proved their conversion by turning from their witchcraft, and even burning their books, the total value of 50,000 pieces of silver, v. 19. The Spirit caused Ephesians to turn from their wicked ways.
Observe: Conversion will turn from sin to godliness in a very visible manner.
Paul intended to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome. He was not ready to leave Ephesus yet, so he sent Timotheus and Erastus ahead while he remained in Ephesus preaching the gospel.
In Acts 19, the silversmiths who made images of Diana saw their likelihood at stake, so they gathered the whole city "into the theater", where they cried out for about two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The "townclerk" appeased the people, and sent them home, vv. 35-41. Then Paul departed and went on to Macedonia.
Note that it was the preaching of the gospel of Christ which was used by the Spirit of God to shut down one of the most important pagan religious centers of the world. In other words, if there is any hope of a turn from the paganism in our day, it will be when God determines to use the preaching of Christ to change hearts. Preachers must faithfully proclaim the gospel, but Spirit of God must give power to His word to change the hearts, as He did in Ephesus.
According to Acts 20:17-30, as Paul was on his way to Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost, he stopped over at Miletus. From Miletus, he sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to come to him. Miletus was about 40 miles away.
He had been with the Ephesians for three years, and he desired to give a charge to the church he had spent so much time with:
V. 19, he reminds them of the manner by which he presented
V. 20, he reminds them that he hid nothing from them that was profitable for them in their spiritual well-being.
V. 30, he tells them they will not see him again, so this is his final face to face instruction.
Note Paul's warning in Acts 20:28-35.
1) V. 28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves..." Paul's first warning was a personal warning to the elders.
The minister, or elder, not only has the temptations that are common to all men, but he is subject to particularly dangerous temptations: pride from flattery, ambition, discouragement, worldly mindedness. And the temptations are in proportion to the importance of his office.
2) V. 29, Warning them of the "grievous wolves" that would enter among them "not sparing the flock", Paul foresaw the decline that was to come. No doubt he warned them with tears.
3) V. 30, he tells the elders from Ephesus that "grievous wolves would arise from among them" that is, these men would be elders or ministers, pastors, or teachers. They would "arise, speaking perverse things" in order "to draw away disciples after them." They would speak crooked things contrary to the total of God's law-word which Paul had preached. Their words would appeal to the fallen flesh, and cause many to apostatize.
4) V. 30, the "grievous wolves" would be in the congregation as well as in the leadership. Their goal would be to "draw away disciples after them." It seems here as their ungodly goal was not necessarily to undermine the gospel, but to acquire a following. So their personalities were very winning as they offered to the simple man a message that pleased the flesh. And of course, such a message had to compromise the strictness of God's word.
Vv. 19, 31, tells us that Paul invested may tears, temptations and persecutions in his ministry at Ephesus. How disheartening it was for Paul to know that a church he had suffered for at the hands of the Jews would fall victim to "Grievous wolves" and crooked,"perverse" men.
V. 36, having given them their final face-to-face instruction and warning, he prayed with them, and they accompanied him to the ship.
The letter to the Ephesians is sent back to them when Paul was a prisoner at Rome. This letter is from his heart of care and concern for these Ephesians. As we look at this epistle, we see that Paul bears his heart to them, and reaffirmed what he had preached for the three years he was there. His letter also fits into the warning he issued in Acts 20 about the corruption of the gospel, among other things.
First, Paul first preached there in AD. 54.
Second, he charges the elders about AD. 60.
Third, he writes to them from Rome in about AD 62.
In the superscription at the end of 2 Timothy: "« The second epistle unto Timotheus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome, when Paul was brought before Nero the second time. »"
1 Timothy 1:1-4, Paul appointed Timothy to Ephesus with these words: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; 2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."
He left Timothy in Ephesus to protect them from false teaching, primarily from the Jews who had persecuted him.
Timothy's assignment at Ephesus was short lived, because soon after Paul requested that Timothy come to him at Rome, and bring Mark with him. 2 Tim. 4:9-11. Tradition says that the apostle John replaced Timothy at Ephesus, and John remained there for a considerable portion of his life. It is said that John died here in the third year of Trajan, A.D. 100 at the age of 94.
It is evident that Paul was extremely concerned about the false teachers who would infiltrate this church he had spent three years establishing. Paul did all he could do to prevent this church from being lead into false doctrine1) he left the church in the hands of Timothy, 2) he warned them in Acts 20, and 3) he writes this lengthy letter to them reminding them of their duties to their high calling in Christ Jesus.
There is not much known of the church at Ephesus, except that it was in the seat of idolatry of its day. Paul preached the gospel there, and the Spirit established a mighty work for the Kingdom in that location. The Spirit used the preaching of His word to destroy that idolatry. But like all godly ministries, it was make up of fallen men, and it also had death in it. Despite all of Paul's best efforts, the church lost its zeal for the Lord, and allowed false doctrine to infiltrate.
Today that great temple is a swamp.
There is a great deal of controversy over the dating of the Revelation. The generally accepted date is about A.D. 97. But that date will not hold up under close examination. It is generally agreed that Matthew 24 and the Revelation go together, and the context demands that Matthew 24 be fulfilled in A.D. 70.
The church of Ephesus is one of the seven churches addressed in the Revelation: 2:1-7
First, even the best of godly intentions have death built into them from the start. Every protection possible can be built into all human endeavors, but sin will take them over sooner or later. History shows us that the lust of the flesh, the love of money and power will win out over a period of time.
The lust for power, or followers, took over the early church very soon after it was founded, and that lust has been a curse in the church since.
Second, the first chapter of Ephesians makes it abundantly clear that it must be the Spirit of God Who turns hearts from sin to Christ. We cannot set a time table on the working of the Spirit, "according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:"
"all things" means all things, including the rise
to power of wicked and ungodly men. In God's good time, He will
rase up good men with His messages which He will use to bring
genuine conversion to multitudes of people.